The Met Gala is going to be camp: Everything you need to know about the fashion event of the year

Awards season and all its fantastic gowns seems far behind us now, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look forward to. In fact, arguably the most important event on the fashion calendar is still to come, and it’s fast approaching.

The Met Gala will bring some of the most famous people on the planet to the steps of the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It’s far from your average red carpet event: It comes with a different theme every year and the outfits are usually very experimental.

Last year saw all manner of religious iconography and bejewelled gowns, so what can we expect from this year’s event?

When is it?

Cardi B at the 2018 Met Gala (Ian West/PA)

The Met Gala always takes place on the first Monday in May – this year, it falls on May 6. It is held at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and most of the photographs will take place on the iconic steps outside the museum. This is where we can ogle all of the outrageous outfits, but once the celebs go inside, pictures are heavily restricted.

The Costume Institute Gala – as it’s officially known – isn’t just a fashion show. Established in 1948, it started life as a fundraising event encouraging high society to donate to the museum. Now, it’s still a fundraising event (Fortune reports entry is $30,000 – or £23,000 – per person), but high society has been replaced by famous actors and musicians. The gala also marks the opening of the museum’s latest exhibition: Camp: Notes On Fashion.

Blake Lively at the 2018 Met Gala (Ian West/PA)

The red carpet action will kick off from around 7pm New York time, which is midnight for those who want to stay up in the UK. If not, you can always just make the trip to America and see the exhibition, which runs from May 9 to September 8.

What was worn last year?

Rihanna at the 2018 Met Gala (Ian West/PA)

Last year’s theme was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Compared to some of the previous themes (particularly the year dedicated to Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo), this was a particularly easy one for celebs to dress for, and there was a lot of OTT and gold-heavy outfits with crosses embossed onto gowns.

Gigi Hadid at the 2018 Met Gala (Ian West/PA)

Highlights included co-chair Rihanna dressed as the Pope, Cardi B and Blake Lively’s equally ornate outfits, Gigi Hadid dressed in a stained glass window-inspired gown and J Lo’s Balmain dress with a giant cross on it.

Jennifer Lopez at the 2018 Met Gala (Ian West/PA)

What can we expect from this year’s theme?

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The Met hosted a press presentation at Teatro Gerolamo in Milan today, ahead of the spring 2019 Costume Institute exhibition, "Camp: Notes on Fashion." Opening May 9, the exhibition will explore the origins of the camp aesthetic, and how it has evolved from a place of marginality to become an important influence on mainstream culture. Susan Sontag's 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’" provides the framework for the exhibition, which will examine how fashion designers have used their métier to engage with camp. All images by Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images. @metcostumeinstitute #TheMet #MetGala #MetCamp⁣ ⁣ 1) Viktor + Rolf (Dutch, founded 1993), Evening Dress, spring/summer 2019 haute couture. Courtesy of Viktor + Rolf.⁣ ⁣ 2) Alessandro Michele, Andrew Bolton, and Anna Wintour. Backdrop: Andy Warhol, Screen Test: Susan Sontag [ST319], 1964; Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh.⁣ ⁣ 3) Alessandro Michele (Italian, born 1972) for Gucci (Italian, founded 1921). Ensemble, autumn/winter 2018-19. Courtesy Gucci Historical Archive. // Palomo Spain (Spanish, founded 2015). Ensemble, spring/summer 2018 menswear. Courtesy Palomo Spain.⁣ ⁣ 4) Alessandro Michele (Italian, born 1972) for Gucci (Italian, founded 1921). Ensemble, autumn/winter 2018-19. Courtesy Gucci Historical Archive. // Palomo Spain (Spanish, founded 2015). Ensemble, spring/summer 2018 menswear. Courtesy Palomo Spain.

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Last year was all about ornate, irreverent dressing. And this year should be just as irreverent – but in a totally different way.

The exhibition is called  Camp: Notes On Fashion, inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Notes on ‘Camp'”. Andrew Bolton, a curator at the Costume Institute who is in charge of the exhibition, tells Vogue that in the context of Sontag’s essay, campness is a “love of the unnatural: Of artifice and exaggeration… style at the expense of content”.

So we can definitely expect a lot of a lot – we’re talking big bows, lots of sparkles, and absolutely nothing muted or demure. Bolton cites Virgil Abloh’s black dress embossed with the words “Little Black Dress” in quotation marks as the perfect example.

Who’s chairing the event?

Co-chair Harry Styles isn’t afraid of a jazzy suit (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Vogue editor Anna Wintour always co-chairs, and this year will be joined by Lady Gaga, Alessandro Michele, Harry Styles and Serena Williams.

Gaga and Styles are particularly well-suited to the theme – both have become well-known for donning outlandish outfits and experimenting with gender-bending styles. Co-chairs typically put the most effort into their outfits, so we can’t wait to see what this lot wear.

Will there be any surprises?

Priyanka Chopra wore Ralph Lauren last year, a designer who might be a conspicuous absence on the 2019 steps (Ian West/PA)

This is the Met Gala – the outfits are always likely to invoke shock and awe, and we’re definitely in for a treat if Lady Gaga is going to be centre stage.

However, the rumour mill is churning and it’s being said some major designers won’t be appearing at the event, including Dior and Ralph Lauren. The way the gala works is, a designer takes a group of celebrities as their guest, buying a table and dressing them in their own designs, so it really will be a conspicuous absence if true.

What we can rely on is a whole lot of Gucci. Not only is creative director Alessandro Michele co-chairing the event, but curator Bolton says he “perfectly expresses what camp truly means to me: The unique ability of combining high art and pop culture” – undoubtedly a lot of celebs will be dressed head-to-toe in his designs.

- Press Association

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